Kalamazoo Valley CC
In Rick Poynor’s book on Jan Van toorn, the author lays out the designer’s philosophy for a more inclusive dialogic approach to design. Rather than authoritarian monologue, this re-envisioning of design respects the viewer, encourages collaboration and is dialogic, in pursuit of what German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger would call emancipatory media. This approach is gaining ground in design practice. Indeed, collaborative, iterative processes are increasingly employed in order to develop more complete solutions that are integrative in their approach, taking into account user, client, and community. Design scholars from Davis to Norman, McCoy to Heller, along with industry champions Martin and Brown continue to advocate for a people-focused approach to design through design thinking—coordinating cognitive collaboration with practical facility to solve problems.
Working in this direction, this paper reflects on the pedagogical and theoretical underpinnings of a media-independent, visual communications course, Design Crew. The Design Crew is a merit-based, advanced-level design course that provides students with the opportunity to work with real clients in the non-profit sector. The course engages students through an experiential learning method, integrating meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich and deepen the learning experience in design, encourage lifelong civic engagement and strengthen relationships that create community. Student designers use design thinking processes as they collaborate with their clients: researching and defining the problem; choosing appropriate media and prototyping solutions; developing final designs and evaluating the success of the solution. Successes and challenges of collborations and design projects are featured.
Program Coordinator Industrial Design, University Lecturer
Robert Busch School of Design
Michael Graves College
In recent years collaboration has become a fundamental of the design industry. In the start-up business environment, the corporate structure has been replaced by a passionate, skilled and capable 24/7 work force of risk-taking design entrepreneurs.
Everyday we witness independent design collaborations that capture recognition by launching their products through powerful tools such as social media and crowd funding, the innovate nature of which are several steps ahead of their market majority corporate competitors. What if we can simulate these collaborations at an earlier stage, during undergraduate education? What if we can mimic the experience of a start-up in the classroom?
I have been teaching “Collaborative Design Studio” the past three years, utilizing team-building and problem solving techniques to produce imaginary start-ups, which incorporate the full spectrum of the start-up model- user experience, branding and packaging by Graphic Designers, design development, prototyping by Industrial Designers, and exhibition of the product by Interior Designers. At certain points in the process, the team divides and conquers by their specialization within the design field. At other points, they work as a team to make common decisions. They follow a road that intermittently splits and merges throughout the journey. The course offered a window on how start-ups run, and gave students the ability to practice before graduating, rather than figuring out design entrepreneurism on the job.
My presentation will include examples of student work, from initial ideations to a finalized solution, by focusing on team members’ key decisions throughout the project. I will also substantiate my argument by highlighting the success of collaborative creative teams by other researchers findings. Finally, the importance of having a collaborative course in the design curricula, especially for institutions that have various design programs, will be open to discussion.
Working remotely as cross-cultural teams, students explore ways design can address sustainable behaviors and lifestyle choices around diverse topics such as food, water, environmental degradation, social justice and cultural preservation.
Kelly Murdoch-Kitt and Denielle Emans work together in an ongoing series of semester-long collaborations with their respective students to make meaningful connections between the concept of sustainability and people’s day-to-day lives. Working remotely as cross-cultural teams, students explore ways design can address sustainable behaviors and lifestyle choices around diverse topics such as food, water, environmental degradation, social justice and cultural preservation. The semester typically culminates in a public exhibition on each campus, enabling students to share their concepts and communications with their local communities. Additionally, the most recent student exhibition, “Co-creating sustainable futures: American and Middle Eastern visual design students explore behavior change” was presented at the 2015 Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference in Minneapolis, MN, USA.
Kelly Murdoch-Kitt is Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design program at Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. She teaches and works primarily in the areas of user experience and service design. Her recent collaborations exploring the socio-cultural benefits of cross-cultural design education and the benefits of integrating sustainability challenges into project-based design courses. Kelly and her collaborator, Denielle Emans, recently presented research at Spaces of Learning: AIGA Design Educators Conference and the 2015 Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference and Expo, “Transforming Sustainability Education.” Recent journal publications include “Design Nexus: integrating cross-cultural learning experiences into graphic design education” in Studies in Material Thinking 11: Re/materialising Design Education Futures (co-authored with Prof. Denielle Emans, 2014) and “Sustainability at the forefront: educating students through complex challenges in visual communication and design” in Interdisciplinary Environmental Review (co-authored with Kelly Norris Martin & Denielle Emans, 2015).
Denielle Emans is an Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, specializing in the area of experiential design in relation to the conceptualization, development, and execution of visual messages for social change and sustainability. As a designer, she has worked to create print, web, and motion design solutions for clients ranging from software specialists to international institutions. Denielle has published her research in a number of academic journals and presented at numerous conferences across the world. She holds a Master of Graphic Design from North Carolina State University’s College of Design and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Denielle is currently a Ph.D. Candidate within the Centre for Communication and Social Change at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.